My body and I swim a race, have a breakthrough.

Early morning stillness on Lake Michigan last Sunday before the 2014 North Shore Triathlon.

Early morning stillness on Lake Michigan last Sunday before the 2014 North Shore Triathlon.

Saturday night I sat in a hot salty bath with nerves in my tummy over an email I’d just received from one of my swim team friends.

Hi Emily;

I went to the pre race meeting this afternoon.  They said that depending on the water temp and waves tomorrow morning we may not be swimming.  Instead we will do a 1.5 mi run in place of the swim if it is called off.  Just wanted to give you a heads up.  See you tomorrow.  I will be there by 5:30-6.

Toussaint

Is this some kind of cruel joke? I don’t run. I signed up to swim the first leg of a triathlon relay—not run. Running hurts my shins, like, a lot. I have a recurring nightmare in which I try to run and I can’t. In dreams and on earth, I’m not that good at running. And I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. (I know, get over yourself, Emily.)

So I did what I always do when I’m anxious—made myself busy. Packing my bag, returning texts and emails, filling water bottles, digging out a sports bra, doing dishes, searching for my very old running shoes…

And then I noticed my shoulders felt a little sore from a dryland workout two nights before, so I filled my tub with the hottest water I could stand, poured cup after cup of Epsom salts and a few drops of Eucalyptus oil into it, lit a candle and sunk beneath the surface for a good 30 minutes.

I do a lot of my processing submerged in hot water in darkened bathrooms. And, in this particular session, I had an actual chat with my body:

“Hey, legs. Thanks for being there. So… you may end up having to run tomorrow. I know we’ve been planning to swim in some really cold water—and thanks for being ready for that—but I just want to give you a heads up that the water might be too cold, and we might be running instead. Did you hear that, knees? I know you’re not really used to running, so how do you feel about this? I don’t want to do anything you don’t feel like you can do, so let me ask you, legs, knees, hips and body, are you cool with a 1.5-mile run?”

Then it happened. My body talked back. Like an instant message in my brain:

“Girl, look at us,” my legs said. “Of course we are cool with a 1.5-mile run. We can do that. You can do that. We’ll have fun together.”

“Wow, legs! Thanks!” I replied. “I promise to take reeeally good care of you all day afterward, regardless of whether we swim or run. Thank you so much for being up for anything, body. I’m so grateful to you.”

I woke at 4:45 a.m. and, in my walk to Betsy’s house, saw a woman in a peach party dress closing the car door while her nicely dressed male companion puked in the gutter. I love a late night, but I was surprised to discover I was much happier being on the early riser end this morning.

Amanda, Betsy and I mug for the camera in the wee, chilly hours.

Amanda, Betsy and I huddle up in the wee, chilly hours.

We drove in darkness to Wilmette, where we learned the swim was still on, so I pulled up my wetsuit and tried to wait till the last minute possible to remove my shoes. On the beach, the sand was extra cold. I overheard that the water was 52 degrees, just one degree over the cutoff for a swim cancellation. Crowds were gathering—600 people, to be exact. Almost everyone was smiling, or laughing, about what they were about to do. I was excited. And nervous. All the women looked so fit, so strong, so young. What if I couldn’t hang with them?

600 athletes gathered on the beach before the North Shore Triathlon last Sunday.

Swimmers begin gathering on the beach before the North Shore Triathlon, in which nearly 600 athletes competed last Sunday.

I watched four waves of male swimmers enter Lake Michigan before me and no one shrieked in pain or turned back from the chill. Then my wave was called. I waded in, water seeped through my wetsuit. I lost my breath, and then it felt invigorating as I bobbed among the others. “So do we just swim right this way, following the buoys all the way down?” I asked to no one in particular, probably super annoying, but I’m a double-checker from way back.

“You can swim wherever you want,” sassed an agro young thing who’d pushed her way to the front like she owned the race. Ok, Sassy Agro Chick, I thought.

The starter megaphoned “go!” and we took off. I resisted the urge to grab her foot and yank her back at the sound of the start. Turns out Sassy Agro Chick was hella fast. So I made sure to draft off of her. I got kicked or elbowed a couple times by bodies in the crowd at the start, but about 100 yards in, Sassy Agro Chick and I had broken away from the others.

Six, maybe seven strokes in, I started questioning my decision. The 52-degree water rushing over my head, in my ears, in my mouth, around my face…it was all so much worse than even the coldest June morning at Ad Astra. But I can’t let Sassy Agro Chick get too far ahead of me, I thought. Body, let’s do this!

We did it! Next year, we think we may do the whole thing.

We did it! And now my body and I are going to start training for all three legs next summer.

One, two, three, breathe. One, two, three, breathe. I put my face down and plodded forth, counting strokes to try to stay focused. Occasionally, I popped my head up to see where I was—and to make sure I still drafting off Sassy Agro Chick. Soon we were mingling with the men who’d started two minutes before us and I eventually fell off her trail in the crowd. My arms were in shock. The cold was all-consuming. My shoulders could barely rotate. I felt as though I was clawing at the water in an eccentric dog paddle. I kicked harder, relying on my legs to move me along. A couple times, I paused for a breaststroke break, saying aloud, “This is absolutely crazy. What am I doing?”

Each time, my body talked back, “We’re doing a race. So, c’mon. Get your head back down and let’s race.”

The whole thing is a real-deal blur. It was only 500 yards, and what ultimately took me 6 minutes, 44 seconds is an icy haze. I rounded the last buoy, swam till it was shallow enough to walk, immediately yanked off my cap and goggles and started running up the beach, catching sight of my family on the way. Both boys and Brian had just arrived at the sidelines and were intently searching the crowds for me. I heard Brian say, “Boys, keep an eye out for Mommy.”

“Heeeeey!!! You’re here! Hi, guys!” I called joyfully as I jogged toward them (you’ve seen Baywatch, right? Totally what I looked like.) Charlie’s eyes lit up, Kip’s face cracked into a huge smile and Brian looked excited, and relieved, that he hadn’t missed me.

I emerged from the cold water to cheering, kisses and nuzzles on dry land.

I emerged from the cold water to cheering, kisses and nuzzles on dry land.

“Goooo, Mommy! Go, Mommy!” Charlie and Kip cheered as I passed them. Seeing their animated faces gave me the jolt of energy I needed to run uphill in the cold, squishy mud a quarter mile to the transition area. Once there, I clumsily ripped off my timing chip, almost falling down in the process, and handed it over to Betsy for the bike leg. She took off quick and my boys soon joined me, covering me in nuzzles, hugs, kisses and more cheers. “Yay, Mommy!” they said. “You look so strong, Mommy. Did you swim fast, Mommy?”

The fam loves on me after my race leg.

The fam loves on me after my race leg. Sharing the post-race glow with my kids was the best feeling ever.

Turns out I swam fast enough to place third overall for women in the swim, which was exceedingly gratifying for this old bird, even if Sassy Agro Chick did beat me. And then Betsy rocked a stellar bike leg, followed by Amanda’s mind-blowingly fast 22-minute 5K. As relays go, we placed second, beating out a team of 20-something guys and ceding victory to a charming trio of men, one of whom looked startlingly like Bill Compton (any True Blood fans out there?), so I was ok with it.

Standing around by the finish line eating bananas, drinking coffee, chatting with new acquaintances and old friends was dreamy. I got to watch a couple of my favorite swimpals, Joe and Toussaint, cross the finish line for the full triathlon, a scene that brought me so much joy I’m going to start training for one myself. They absolutely rocked their races and it filled me up to watch them doing their thing.

Toussaint and Joe, my masters team swimpals, flank me after they nail their tri.

Toussaint and Joe, my masters team swimpals, flank me at the finish line after they nail their triathlons.

All day, I found myself straight-up reveling in what my body and I had just done together. It was a breakthrough day for us. Like any relationship, we have our ups and downs, but my body and me, well, I think we’re starting to find our groove.

Instead of fixating on my various body neuroses, including the stretch marks my sons proudly tell me they created, my interior monologue was saying, “Right on, Bod. You are so amazing.”

To which my body replied, through happy tears, “Thank you so much for finally noticing.”

This is minutes before my body and I put our wetsuit to the test in 52-degree water.

This is minutes before my body and I put our wetsuit to the test in 52-degree water. And, in case anyone’s wondering, hell yes, I was wearing lip gloss.

Spiritual bootcamp, here I come (ready or not.)

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This is wee Charlie and me a few years ago. Fast forward to now. This weekend, during my free time, I’ll find a nice spot on the grass and park myself here to meditate. Wish me luck.

I’ve just left behind my dogs, kids and husband, along with lists, labels and a logistical labyrinth of childcare arrangements to hop a plane to San Diego.

I’ve also just read 116 pages of a book without stopping—I don’t recall the last time I read 100 pages straight—and I got to hit the town for a late dinner with Marinita, an honest-to-God soul sister. Tomorrow I will see more beloved friends, including a beautiful new baby. I also get to see flowers, the color green and the Pacific Ocean. I should feel light and airy, ready to party, right?

But no. In the back of my mind is the real reason I’m on this plane right now: I’m here to meditate. Deeply, devotedly and for extended periods of time. Starting Friday afternoon, I’ll join other like-minded yogis and submit to the gentle guidance of the monks and nuns who will conduct the retreat I booked a couple months ago.

Sounds good, right? Meditation retreat. I mean, duh, yeah, it’ll be freaking awesome. When I leave. From the time I check into the retreat to the time I check out, though, it’s spiritual bootcamp.

Ok, I’ll say it: I’m straight-up anxious about this thing. I did it once before six years ago when I was pregnant with Charlie, so I know. There’s no spa, no yoga classes, no massage therapists and no champagne cocktails. There’s not even any talking. It’s potent and it’s wonderful. I’m equal parts apprehension and knowing. This is something I need to do. Like a tune-up for the soul.

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So…the last time I did a retreat like this was at the Lake Shrine in LA, and I was seven months pregnant. I booked some extra time with pals before checking into the retreat. At the time, Melissa, college roomie and friend extraordinaire, was studying the art of DJ-ness. She took me to Scratch DJ Academy, where she was taking classes, and showed me the art of the turntable. We treated Baby Charlie to a little scratching. Unfortunately, I retained no knowledge about DJ-ing that could possibly have made me heaps cooler today.

However it unfolds, it will be powerful, beautiful, restorative, energizing and essential. But it might suck.

Like a deep-tissue massage or a grueling myofascial session with my chiropractor, Dr. Dan Mossell, it’s not a pleasurable experience when I’m in it, but I keep going back for more because of how I feel when I leave. That’s kinda how a silent meditation retreat is. Hard-ass work, at least for a girl like me, to get quiet enough to tap into the Godforce, but once you’re in the flow, there’s no better feeling on the planet.

And so, with that lit-up, billion-watt soul high in my sights, I’ll check into a modest room on the grounds of the hermitage where my guru wrote Autobiography of a Yogi. The hermitage and gardens, which are glorious enough to beckon the immaculate Johnny Depp (my friend Joanie ran into him there once), are situated on a cliff overlooking the ocean and Swamis, an aptly named surf break. I’ll be served delicious Indian vegetarian meals three times a day, sleep in a simple dorm room, possibly share a bathroom with a stranger and follow a strict program of meditation that begins at 6:30 a.m. and continues till bedtime, with a couple breaks thrown in, all in silence.

I’m agreeing to forego the use of words, unplug the treadmill of my thoughts, still my body for loooong periods of time, turn my consciousness over to God and welcome whatever comes up without judgment or attachment.

Holy crap, that’s scary.

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When I get sick of meditating here, I can just hop up and snuggle a dog or grab a snack in the kitchen. At the  retreat, the only option is to stay put till the bell rings.

In theory, I do this on a daily basis. I sit on the bench in my little meditation nook and I do the practices I’ve learned from the teachings that resonate with me. I sit for anywhere from two minutes to an hour doing the techniques, including Kriya yoga. However, I get up whenever the heck I feel like it. If my mind wanders, I let it wander instead of guiding it back to the practices. If my head gets flooded with thoughts and to-dos, I take a break and write them down. If my body feels restless, I get up and do something else. When it comes to meditating, discipline is not my best party trick.

At the retreat, I’ll stay at the party no matter how badly I may want to leave. Either that or face the awkwardness of storming out of the low-lit chapel five minutes into a two-hour session struggling to breathe because I’m so exasperated by my own restlessness. (the last time I did one of these retreats, this is exactly what almost happened.)

Not that anyone would judge me for freaking out in the wilderness of an overactive mind—all sincere spiritual seekers have been there—but I’d just rather not make a scene, mmkay?

Say a little prayer for me as I go into this retreat? If you’re so inclined, send me good thoughts as I attempt to ride into the superconscious this weekend. If you would, pray that I experience the lasting peace that comes from deep, prolonged meditation and that I may emerge saturated in the ever-new joy of God’s love, with plenty of overflow to share with all my dear ones. Which includes you, obvi.

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I love this. Paramahansa Yogananda depicted on the wall of a local cafe in Encinitas. Surfing Swamis and superconsciousness.

Happy 2014 to all and to all a good night.

Tonight, after a wonderful evening, which included new and old friends, Texas queso, butter cake (likely the most delicious thing I ate this year), a bottle of vinho verde and 10 boys under 10 years of age racing around with Nerf guns, we came home, put the boys to bed and I headed outside with giddy abandon. It’s snowing on this last night of 2013, and it’s wondrous.

I leashed up the pups, suited up for snow and ran through our darkened Chicago neighborhood as Ralph, Lily and Tinkie tugged at their leads like sled dogs. I think all four of us were smiling the entire time, running tirelessly and more care freely with every fresh track we made in the still-falling blanket of white powder. Red cheeks, endorphins kicking, Mother Nature beaming, life happening and big flakes softening, well, just about everything.  

The year 2013 had some sharp edges, for many of us. If this night in Chicago is any indication, and if I were a betting woman, I’d say 2014 will be a bit rounder, softer, more childlike, safer just to be, more carefree, gently flowing, sometimes floating, filled with wonder.

In 2014, here’s to everyone experiencing the conscious health, joy, vitality, light, love, wonder and, yes, softness, that’s there for us to access within and without at every given moment. I wish you all tremendous beauty in 2014. God bless.

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The Quinn men practice short swinging on the snowy walk home.

 

A Veteran’s Day prayer

Dear God,

We thank you for our soldiers. Protect them in combat, and fortify their spirits for the journey that follows battle. Lord, shine Your all-healing light on the hearts, souls and bodies of the men and women who have been wounded physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually at war. Bless them that they may experience Your unconditional love and acceptance shining through the friends, family and communities to which they return. Bless us all that we may generously receive our veterans and support them as they have so magnanimously given of themselves for us.

Amen

Sgt. Homer G. Hughey, my grandfather, and my dad.

Living life out of the blogosphere

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Pardon the blogging silence. I’ve been having difficulty finding time to write lately, which is odd considering I now have 12.5 hours each week to myself while both boys are in school. (Not to worry, even when they’re gone, they leave plenty of reminders of their existence…exhibit A: the viking battle axe tucked into the towel hook this morning.)

I thought my blog frequency would explode with the start of school.

Instead, I’m using the time to do lovely and important things like execute my freelance work, vacuum the clumps of dog hair, take in an occasional yoga class, prep and make dinners, run errands, put laundry away and walk the dogs. I’ve even taken myself on a couple soul-dates. The idea comes from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, in which she recommends you take your inner artist on an “artist date” each week. For my purposes, they’re “soul dates” and I hope to do one each week with a mission of connecting with and honoring myself on a deeper level in some way. I set a specific intention before each soul date.

For example, in the yoga class I’ve attended a couple times, my intention was to just be with my body and to love it, nourish it with powerful movement and appreciate what it can do. I may not be runway-ready but, wow, my body surprises me with its strength, flexibility and courage to try anything.

The other soul date was a trip to King Spa, a Korean sauna, which bears a little more detail. For this adventure, I had three intentions:

1. To dedicate a full five hours to being silent, still and open to releasing toxins. After five years of nearly constant motion chasing my kids around, the variety of uncrowded saunas there were the perfect place for ushering in this new era of increased opportunity for stillness. I particularly liked the charcoal room for its grounding, the amethyst room for its cleansing and the Bul Ga Ma for the penetrating but not overwhelming heat. By the end of my visit, I was able to lie completely still and my mind was equally as quiet. For an always-moving girl like me, it’s hard to get still on the inside. But, for all you similarly fast twitching ones out there, it can be done!

2. I also wanted to take another step in getting comfortable with myself, exactly as I am, so I spent some time in the women-only area, taking steams followed by dips in pools of various temperatures, all without the comfort of clothing. It was terrifying, to say the least, to be naked with other women. At one point, the attendant reminded me to leave my tiny towel on the shelf before proceeding. I’d been using it to try to cover up as much as possible and, to my surprise, when the tiny swath of cotton was taken away, I was somehow able to make it from the steam room to the cold pool to the hot pool to the body scrub area and back again without once panicking. I daresay I even felt relaxed by the end of my time there. The gap in comfort levels between me and the older Korean and Polish women scrubbing their own skin in the open showers was notable, but I’m making strides. And it feels pretty awesome.

3. My final intention was to pave the way to fresh, new beginnings. So I decided to brave the unsmiling 60-something Korean woman wearing only a bra and panties for a Korean body scrub. Scrub away the old, welcome in the new. I planked my naked self down on a slippery plastic table as Sally yanked my arms and legs and head all over the table, scouring every patch of skin on my body with a brillo pad. I can’t explain it any better than one Yelp reviewer: “The body scrub was uncomfortable, at times painful, embarrassing and borderline humiliating. That being said… where have you been my whole life, Sally? I will be back in a couple months for a S & M fix.” Unfortunately, or I would’ve enjoyed both the scrub and 50 Shades of Grey a lot more, I’m not cut from the same cloth as this reviewer, but her words rang true and I had to appreciate the amount of dead skin that was removed (goodbye, golden tan, sniff-sniff) and the therapy of the whole thing. In the past, being naked in front of other people in full light would’ve been the most horrific torture I could imagine. Now, I’m happy to say, I’m conquering that fear. It was a silly fear, anyway, when I think of it. We’re so much more than our bodies.

Since the body scrub, I’ve been filling my non-alone time with couch snuggles, live music, weddings, city exploring, dog cuddles, kid pedis and just regular life. I’ve been going to bed early so that I can get my requisite eight hours of sleep before rising at 6:15 a.m. to get the boys out the door to school each day. Until I stabilize in the new routine of school life, I’ve accepted that my blogging and social media time will take a back seat to the deep exhale of “me” time. I miss posting each week, but it feels essential to me that I enjoy a nice, long exhale before beginning to inhale again. It’s that basic, and that true.

I’m unsure of what my next soul date will be, but I’d love ideas if you have them. Please share!

 

Following are some snaps of life the past few weeks: Kip contemplating the sky while listening to Bestfriends play at the Chipotle Cultivate Fest; the pic Kip snapped of me after he put the headband on my head all by himself at Cultivate; symphony concert at Millennium Park; the Field Museum; the beach; baking cookies for after-school snack; my plate of delicious BBQ heaven at Ben and Liz’s rehearsal dinner in KC; enjoying the Ben-and-Liz love fest with a few of my beloved Fogel cousins; laughing with my beautiful sister at our cousin’s wedding.

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#7 Enoughness Project Series: Surviving SuperTarget

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There are a million ways to take care of yourself. Eating apples, as they say, is one. I think I may have discovered a new way: When I need a particular material item, instead of embarking on a bargain-hunting rampage, I will treat myself by shopping intentionally and buying good quality. Also, this is apple is for real. My teeth don’t always leave hearts in the food they bite, but when they do, they make it awesome.

Target. I went there today.

In the first five minutes, I fingered three swimsuits, ran my hands across one dress, eyed some colorful shoes and scarves and put two bras in my shopping cart. I’ve needed a new swimsuit since last summer. And I figured the bra counted as self-care…one of those necessary sorts of things.

I took the bras out of the cart a moment later. “I’ve bought this brand before,” I thought. “These don’t fit well. They’re not comfortable. This racerback is going to make my shoulders hurt just like the last one I bought here. If I really need a bra, I’ll get one at Nordstrom. Do I really need one? Eh. Not really.”

After eyeing the swimsuits, which I’d never try on while with my two kids at Target—such a pain to haul three people into that dressing room—I likewise determined that, if I really need a swimsuit, I will go somewhere, actual or online, that sells swimsuits. I will find one for my body type and possibly spend a little extra money to make sure it fits well and becomes me.

Maybe this spending hiatus will help remove impulsiveness from my buying and replace it with intention, premeditation and greater quality purchases. Once the shopping ban is lifted after these three months, when it comes to things I need, buying finer rather than on-sale-er things may be one true way of honoring my own enoughness.

Now that I think of it, occasionally buying myself things that are good rather than “affordable” feels a little bit like a new brand of self care to me. (the act of buying itself is not my self-care, but rather the act of choosing quality over fire sale is what feels like self-care to me.) And I’m definitely on board with more of that.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

I make the shift from fear and scarcity to piles of wealth and one sick garage

At least the rug is ok

Disaster averted: my favorite rug survived the plumbing snafu. I’m choosing to focus on gratitude for a salvaged rug rather than the giant hole in our basement floor.

What a week for playing with energy. Brian and I made a decision to shift down in our expenditures. Following Christmas, a wedding, a vacation, a baptism and a preschool tuition payment, we wanted to take 30 days to chill on spending and, you know, just get caught up. So, like, no major purchases or anything, ok, Babe? And be careful at Target if you go…

I believe Brian’s energy in the money-management conversation was easy, straightforward and practical. I, however, went to my extra-loaded mental space about money. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been spending so carelessly lately, I mean, I didn’t need that necklace at Target, and now we don’t have any money, and it’s all my fault and I better cancel that date we have planned in a couple weeks so we don’t have to pay a sitter and I must figure out how to stop this freak out I’m having because it feels horrible and it’s definitely not helping the situation, but what am I supposed to do—it’s what I know? And, as we just discussed, we’re desperate for money. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!! Cue the tears.

Whoa, girl. I went off the deep end of my own neuroses, inventing a crisis where none existed. And I rode that trail, no pulling back on any reins. Right on time, just when I fearfully cross over into the land of scarcity…

1. The dishwasher stops working right after a dinner party. (While taking apart the dishwasher, our repairman finds a stick—from a tree—lodged in the pump.)
2. The sink next to the washing machine overflows, flooding part of the basement floor, which includes a section of my favorite rug. (The rug is ok now, not to worry.)
3. While routing the basement pipe that leads to the catch basin, the plumber encounters something that bends his router, which emerges covered in mud, so he deduces an underground pipe has collapsed and needs to be replaced. And then he jackhammers our basement floor to reveal a pipe the diameter of an adult head, almost completely clogged with 100 years of dense gunk. And dog hair. (I hope you never have to see this.)

Sliding doors removed, washer and dryer relocated, the plumber jackhammered his heart out.

Sliding doors removed, washer and dryer relocated, the plumber jackhammered his heart out.

Even my friend, who heard the jackhammery commotion from another house, texted to say, “it sounds expensive over there,” which made me laugh. She was right. But somewhere in the days between my conversation with Brian, the interior monologue meltdown, the three-feet-long Home Depot parts receipt on my kitchen counter and the check I wrote yesterday, it didn’t feel expensive anymore.

My sweet husband disagrees with me on this, but I feel like I’m responsible for bringing this on all at once—not the actual occurrences, but the timing of them. In essence, everything we process consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously, from physical sensations and material objects to words and thoughts, is energy. At its base level, that’s all stuff actually is. Energy. Even scientists can agree on that. And if you’ve ever had a coach, you’ve probably been told something to the effect of “You’ll get out of it what you put into it.” That’s how it works with a workout, for example, and that’s how it works with the universe, too.

So, when I put the energy of fear and scarcity out there regarding my finances, what comes back to me? Proof of my own fear. More things that take money away from me. An ancient, horrifying clog blocking the flow of water in a giant, important pipe. (How’s that for a metaphor?)

Now that we have water flowing freely again, and a smooth patch of new cement marking the removal of a pipe that was no longer of service to us, I’m noting my own routing, repairing and reinvention in this process.

As such, when I wrote that check to Bradley the plumber, it actually felt good. I thanked him for coming over at 9 p.m., for staying till he’d figured everything out, for taking a little more than 24 hours to complete such a ginormous job, for reuniting me with our washing machine, for mopping the floor to perfection and for being so generally delightful to our whole family. I was so grateful to have a prompt, eager, hardworking, delightful plumber to solve our problem. When facing the effects of a fear-and-scarcity mentality, I find love and gratitude is the most medicinal cocktail.

Affirmations also are helpful. Here are a few crafted by the luminous Allyson File, creator of Feeding Sparrows, a site dedicated to sharing the magic of affirmations with kids and families. “I love this one,” she says of the first below. “When feelings of lack or worry creep in my body and make me feel yucky, this affirmation makes me feel fresh and good again.” I concur. Here are some of her faves, and she says them often. Starting now, I will be saying them, too. (See here for Allyson’s tips on using affirmations.)

  • I pay my bills with love as I know abundance flows freely through me.
  • Life is full of abundance therefore, I accept all the abundance that comes my way.
  • My income is always increasing.
  • I am always supplied with whatever I need.
  • I prosper wherever I turn.
  • I am open to new avenues of income.
  • I rejoice in what I already have and know that abundance is all around me.

I’ll take this as a sign, Mr. Plumber Graffiti Writer, and I thank you. (I accept all the abundance that comes my way.)

As Bradley the plumber and his sidekick were leaving, I asked the sidekick if he, too, had been working in plumbing since he was 14. “Nah,” Bradley said. “Onik is a writer.”

“You’re a writer? Me, too!” I exclaimed.

“I guarantee you don’t write like Onik does,” Bradley declared.

“Uhh, I’m sure you’re right,” I responded. “So, what kind of writing do you do?”

“Lemme show you,” Onik literally hopped over to me and opened up a photo on his phone.

It was a giant mural, painted in the style we urban mommies would call “graffiti.” And it was awesome.

We have an old, tilting garage that opens up on our alley in Chicago, and I’ve been looking for a graffiti artist to beautify it for literally years. (I totally don’t get it—why don’t I know more graffiti writers? I mean…don’t they hang out at coffee shops, wine bars and preschool playgrounds?)

For some unknown reason, the plight of graffiti writers (and I’m not referring to the gang-bangers who tag stuff all over my neighborhood) really gets me. Maybe my graffiti passion is rooted in that lovely old boyfriend sitting me down to watch “Basquiat” more than a decade ago, but I want these urban artists to have a canvas for their self-expression, and I get all concerned that there’s not enough opportunity for them to legally create. I want to give them an endless array of concrete walls and plywood boards and underpasses and viaducts and, frankly, my garage door, so that they can express themselves.

After gushing to Onik about his work, and confessing my long-held desire to have our garage door written upon, and admitting I probably couldn’t afford him, he enthusiastically offered to paint it for me for the cost of the spray paint.

Although I seem to be in the business of commissioning original art these days, I was not aware I had the budget for it.

Thank you, Universe.

(Stay tuned for summer, at which point, as a result of all this clearing and recalibrating, I should have piles of wealth and one sick garage.)